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Are there currently or have there been historically orthodox female kabbalists? If not is this a quirk of history or is there a specific reason?

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Not a necessary requirement, but to become a legitimate kabbalist one must study the entire Talmud which is not common for orthodox women. – Ani Yodea Sep 17 '13 at 21:12
@Ramin Or non-orthodox women, for that matter. I'd argue it's uncommon for orthodox men, too. – HodofHod Sep 22 '13 at 9:44
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Chabad.org has an article by Yael Levine Katz about three women with connections to Tzfas (Safed) that either were kabbalists, or exhibited kabbalist-like characteristics.

Because the article focuses on Tzfas, it does not include other similar figures. For example Udel, the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, also become something of a female Rebbe after her father's passing.

Another was Rachel Aberlin, also mentioned by R' Chaim Vital, in the same book as Francesa Sarah.

This page discusses some of these women, as well as an unnamed woman, mentioned as "the daughter of Rav Raphael Anav", who was influential in her community.

Much of the history here seems sparse, and one of the main reasons that they (as well as other female kabbalists), might not be well known is that they don't appear to have authored any books.

With few exceptions, kabbalists are known and remembered because of the works they create. The notable exception would be the Arizal, whose many students' many works did that for him. The more influential their works, the more famous they become, and the more prominently they are remembered by history.

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Terrific answer, I can't imagine a better one! – please remove my account Sep 18 '13 at 13:39

For a more contemporary example I would include Yemima Avital founder of the Yemima school.

for an overview see this paper, particularly starting on page 199 for description of connection to kabbalah.

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Today I know of several in Chabad, or with Chabad connections: Shimona Tzukernik, Fraidy Yanover, Esther Segal.

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